Tech upgrades lend to thriving food prospects

May 30, 2022 | 10:00
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New cutting-edge technologies are becoming an essential factor for modern and sustainable groups in agriculture and food sectors to maintain high productivity.
Tech upgrades lend to thriving food prospects
Nearly 100 Vietnamese companies joined Thaifex - Anuga Asia 2022

At last week’s Thaifex - Anuga Asia 2022 event in Bangkok, ProfilePrint COO Ellis Chua highlighted the lack of consistency in food ingredients in terms of sensory and quality parameters, which costs the industry millions of US dollars annually.

“Ensuring quality, consistency of ingredients, and shortening the product development cycle is essential to any food business. Current methods can be costly and heavily dependent on expert human judgment,” said Chua.

ProfilePrint is a Singaporean company focusing on the rapid assessment of food ingredients powered by AI. It empowers regular users to perform the role of an expert, without the need for technical know-how or expensive lab equipment. Using advances in AI and sensor technology, it creates a unique digital food fingerprint for samples within seconds.

For verticals such as tea, coffee, grain, cocoa, herbs and spices, and more, common factors used to determine their quality that people check are the uniformity and the amylose content. In addition to human sensory or testing one item at a time, applying AI and near-infrared spectroscopy (NIS) equipment has contributed to managing the quality of tonnes of items easily and quickly.

“With a combination of sensor technology and pattern recognition, ProfilePrint’s rice grain model leverages this spectroscopy to tackle consistency challenges and provide good prediction results,” said Chua.

In husbandry companies, AI and NIS have supported the management of the quality of input materials and output products, particularly in animal feed production, where tens of tonnes of various seeds are processed every day.

“These cutting-edge technologies have enabled us to optimise the nutritional value of our portfolio of ingredients without compromising on taste and quality,” said Marcel Smits, chairman of Cargill Asia-Pacific. “Cargill is keen to leverage the application and technologies to take the connection between nutrition and health to the next level.”

AI and NIS are useful for processing and manufacturing, added Vivek Verma, managing director of Coffee at Olam Food Ingredients. “The technology could significantly expedite the quality assessment process to benefit the entire value chain - from farmers to roasters,” Verma said.

“We also see the potential of deploying this solution beyond coffee and into other differentiated food ingredients such as cocoa, nuts, spices, and dairy.”

Such solutions have been increasingly important during the last two years when companies were restricted from sending trusted staff to source and carry out quality inspections.

“AI and NIS technologies have allowed an objective snapshot of quality to be obtained reliably, remotely, and digitally, ensuring trust is maintained in the supply chain, especially in international trade,” urged Tan Toi-Ngee, head of innovation at Golden Energy and Resources, which is part of Indonesian conglomerate Sinar Mas Group.

In Vietnam, AI technology combined with Internet of Things sensor devices is being applied in the agricultural industry. According to MarketandMarkets, the value of AI in agriculture is estimated to grow from $1 billion in 2020 to $4 billion in 2026 with a compound annual growth rate of 25.5 per cent in that time.

By analysing different data sources such as temperature, humidity, weather, and historical crop performance, AI in the agricultural sector can help automatically generate warnings and forecasts, make better predictions about the weather as well as the country’s environmental conditions that directly affect the growth of crops, crops, in the process of farming and production.

Applying AI in agriculture also helps to analyse data in real-time, contributing to helping farmers detect and control pests, as well as monitor appropriate water use and soil conditions.

Hundreds of companies joined Thaifex and showcased cutting-edge machines manufactured by CWM Automation, Sripipat Engineering, ABL, and more from both Asian and European countries.

“I am so amazed by the machines and technological solutions in the exhibition, which have been upgraded so much compared to the previous exhibitions,” said Nguyen Thanh Hoa from EUBIZ, a Vietnamese cashew exporter. “They will enable us to cut down human labour, enhance performance and productivity, and manage the quality of products. They have their own advantages and solutions, so we have a headache trying to choose the best suppliers and the best technologies.”

Thaifex - Anuga Asia 2022, Asia’s leading food tradeshow, took place on May 24-28 and featured 11 food segments, 1,600 exhibitors, 2,500 high-profile buyers, and 75,000 trade visitors in the food and beverage sector.

The exhibition also highlighted the biggest trends in the sector, market segments and opportunities, rising levels of product innovation, and emerging and growing trends in the post-pandemic era.

The event is projected to generate total purchase orders of over $290 million to boost the local economy.

Nguyen Vu Hien - General director, PTEXIM Corporation

Tech upgrades lend to thriving food prospects

The complicated situation of the pandemic made me hesitate when deciding to attend this event. About 10 days before the event, we decided to join – and luckily, everything was smooth.

In previous years, the number of visitors to the fair was higher, but I was surprised that the number of customers coming to this year’s event was still quite good, although there were fewer European businesses participating than before because another big trade fair was also held in Europe at the same time.

The event is well organised and not inferior to the major fairs usually held in Europe. I highly appreciate the experience of organising as well as the customers coming to Thaifex. I think that Vietnam can completely learn the model, as well as the service deployment way to build international-scale fairs and invite more foreign businesses to Vietnam to promote domestic products.

Finding new customers is important, but meeting and strengthening relationships with old partners is equally important. We do not expect to achieve too much from this event alone, but the purpose of coming here was mainly to introduce products and revisit old friends.

Niels Osterberg - Director, Orana

Tech upgrades lend to thriving food prospects

We have a very big market in Vietnam. So, the event helps expand the export of products out of Vietnam into the rest of the region.

Almost 20 years ago, we started our business in Vietnam and taught customers how to make yoghurt with fruit, as well as in Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. We mainly market the Vietnamese operation because our Vietnamese factory is for this whole region. The Vietnamese market is more mature and the consumer is looking more for natural, plant-based products with fruit.

This is a big chance for us to build up more business. We have factories in Denmark, Egypt, India, and Vietnam, so the team from Denmark takes care of the European market.

So what we do is that we use a Danish name and the Danish technology for the fruit and then we use Vietnamese methods to market and produce.

Trinh Thi Van - Chief marketing officer, Hoang Mai P&T Co., Ltd.

Tech upgrades lend to thriving food prospects

Since 2010, we have attended Thaifex and approached the potential customers, increasing the presence of the Richy confectionery brand in 35 nations.

Through the event, we hope to continue to have more potential customers and bring Vietnamese confectionery products to more markets. Currently, Richy’s products are available in Thailand. In addition to developing new partners in Thailand in particular, we will continue to expand to other potential markets in Asia such as South Korea, Japan, and Eastern Europe. Entering foreign markets is the desire of all Vietnamese businesses, but it depends on the internal strength of the business and the quality of the products meeting international standards.

Normally, Vietnamese businesses will develop the domestic market first, then think about exporting, but Richy steered its development strategy in a different way and was glad that the products were well received by the overseas market. Richy’s booth has captured the attention of international partners since the first days of joining Thaifex.

Mathias Kuepper - Managing director, Koelnmesse

Tech upgrades lend to thriving food prospects

I think the goals of the exhibition are to give everybody the opportunity to connect again after two years. If you want to introduce new products and find new business partners, it is very difficult to do that online. So Thaifex is really the very first step after two years that people can meet and help small and large importers and exporters overcome current-day challenges, providing them with standout networking.

We see a lot of negotiation going on and a lot of people mingling, and that’s how you can very easily assess the success of such an event. It is also a reflection of Vietnam’s food market growth rate, which is expected to grow annually by 8.05 per cent.

This year, the second-highest number of visitors came from Vietnam, and it’s also one of our largest exhibiting groups at the showground. As organisers of the event, we want to alleviate these challenges and drive value in the food and beverage industry by creating a platform that allows businesses to collaborate and cross-innovate in a short span of time.

We believe that the result of this would be an increase in diversification, new growth opportunities, new innovations, optimising operations, and value creation for stakeholders. We want to focus on more events to bring the whole region together, and we’re observing Vietnam very closely by working with our partners.

Le Quang Minh - Director of Overseas Market Development, Tan Hue Vien Food Processing Co., Ltd.

Tech upgrades lend to thriving food prospects

Although the number of visitors to Thaifex in 2022 is less than in previous years due to the objective impacts of the epidemic, it still yielded good business results.

The trade fair has become a bridge to bring products to the world market, removing barriers in a country or region. This year, we returned with the desire to meet our old partners after two years of online communication, in addition to looking for new partners to expand the market.

We do not set specific goals for numbers because this is a big playing field. If we are lucky, we may have the opportunity to connect with big partners, otherwise, it is also an opportunity to promote the brand and products to many potential customers around the world. Currently, our products are available in the United States, Canada, Northeast Asian countries and the entire Southeast Asia region.

The company is looking for opportunities to attend international fairs held in the South American market in order to realise its plan to expand its presence there. Tan Hue Vien is always ready to seize the opportunity.

Therefore, we always appreciate the benefits that fairs at home and abroad bring, and are ready to attend more. We always give priority to using domestic ingredients, which makes us proud to bring Tan Hue Vien products to global food fairs.

Peter Tran - General director, KIDO Foods Co., Ltd.

Tech upgrades lend to thriving food prospects

With the experience of introducing the Kinh Do brand to over 30 countries before, participation and promotion at international fairs is not new, but this is the first time KIDO has brought its ice cream products to a big event like this one.

In the first two days of attending Thaifex 2022, we contacted nearly 100 potential customers and most of them liked the products that are popular in the Asia-Pacific region. In particular, some customers from the United States and the Middle East have expressed their trust in the brand and their interest in products with traditional Vietnamese tastes, such as banana ice cream and coconut ice cream.

Coming to this trade fair, besides looking for partners who are large shopping centres or supermarkets, we also wish to reach out to some local distributors in Malaysia, China, and some other Southeast Asia for export. Currently, we are preparing to sign contracts with Singaporean partners, while KIDO’s ice cream products have also conquered the Cambodian market for nearly 10 years with an export revenue of about $100,000 per month.

We all attended online events over the last two years, and although we were able to approach many customers, I did not see many obvious effects. This year’s offline event makes businesses feel more excited and also opens up new business opportunities.

By Huong Oanh

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